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Papers, photos and family history

Papers, photos and family history
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Safe storage for the family archives

I’ve just inherited five archive boxes from a relative who was a bit of a family history nut. It’s one of those puzzling legacies: I always nodded politely when I visited him, but usually I tried to steer the conversation away from his research as he did go on a bit!

Anyway, he left me the boxes, and I’m very pleased they exist – after all, it is my family history – but as you might have guessed, I don’t have much interest in genealogy. However, I accept that this may change in future when I have more time on my hands. And also I know other family members might want to access the documents, photographs, letters and diaries that my relative considered so important.

A safe storage environment

I’ve decided to store these paper treasures outside my home – partly because I don’t want five archive boxes on top of my wardrobe, and partly because I think they’ll be safer in an environment where the temperature and humidity don’t fluctuate.

What’s in the box?

I had a quick look through the boxes before I took them to our storage unit, and I’m glad I did, not only because there was an early photograph of my great-great-great grandmother who looks startlingly like my daughter, but also because my relative has included a lot of his research on disc. By which I mean five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy discs. Remember those? My laptop certainly doesn’t. Luckily, I have a friend who is a bit of a collector of vintage computer equipment and he took the files off for me and put them on a (single) CD. By the way, my friend and his vintage computer equipment are a storage story and a half, and I’ll tell you all about him in due course.

Future-proof media

It occurred to me that the documents on the CD might all be in an arcane old timey word-processor format – but my relative knew a thing or two about data archiving file formats (even if his idea of future-proof media was a bit off). He’d stuck to plain text (.txt) format for the most part.

I made a dozen copies of the CD and passed them around to other family members who might be interested, and I put one disc into the archive box. Not only that, but I printed all the docs, too – I used Permanent Paper, purchased, no less, from The National Archives Bookshop . I don’t mind spending out because I know that my storage insurance covers the value of the stationary (and storage media). I’ve got my back-up copies, too. I’ll want to get the photos and documents scanned so that back-up electronic copies are available and most family history experts recommend putting your genealogy research online ; but that’s a project for another rainy weekend.

I fully intend to revisit my boxes of family history every once in a while – it’s actually in my calendar. I’ll update the media if that’s needed and just check that everything is as it should be. And, who knows, I might spot some more family resemblences.